The UK oil and gas industry is centered off Scotland’s North East Coast and its supply chain generates £30 billion a year in revenue
The industry has overcome complex technical challenges throughout its 50-year history — in production, supply and health and safety considerations.
Here are five trailblazing technological innovations that have epitomized the ingenuity that’s been crucial to the continued success of UK oil and gas.
Finding and exploiting new offshore oil wells is extremely expensive — offshore firms can’t adopt a ‘drill and hope’ approach to exploration.
Marine seismic survey vessels use air guns, water guns or radar to map the sea floor and target geological indicators of valuable hydrocarbons.
Ship-borne geophones and computers convert seismic vibrations into virtual treasure maps.
The process allows exploration firms to minimize investment risks and maximize profits before drilling into the depths.
Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) technology uses specialist unmanned vehicles for underwater inspection, installation and repair. And delicate engineering requires manoeuvrability precision of 5-10mm.
The next generation of vehicles will use obstacle avoidance and vision technology to self-navigate and respond automatically to changing climactic conditions.
Directional drilling has been used since the inception of the oil and gas industry to reach reserves more easily. It can reduce environmental impact by drilling for several wells from the same vertical bore.
Improved drilling sensors and GPS and Real-time technologies now afford an amazing level of accuracy.And horizontal drilling (across an entire oil and gas formation) can be 20 times more productive than the vertical variety.
Decommissioning has become an important sub-sector of the oil and gas industry as many oil and gas fields decline towards the end of their life cycles.
Pipelines must be removed safely so that the seabed can be reinstated and lasting environmental impact is minimized.
Scour prevention mats made from recycled rubber vehicle tires offer an innovative solution —seabed restoration is promoted as pipeline damage is minimized.
But large-scale decommissioning of sites such as the <Brent Oil and Gas Field in the North Sea is a complex process involving lengthy public consultations with a wide range of stakeholders.
This three-billion barrel site North East of the Shetland Islands has accounted for 10 per cent of oil production since 1976 — so safe decommissioning is a Herculean task.
Equipment Compliance Software Solutions
Duty holders or inspection companies are responsible for legal compliance for the thousands of pieces of equipment most oil and gas firms own and operate, and they’re always keen to harness technology to aid their mission.
Each piece of equipment is assessed to specific and detailed safety standards by expert inspectors — compliance failures can be deadly so enforcement is rigorous.
But equipment inspection compliance software allows automated systems to be incorporated into safety programs so that entire arrays of equipment are assessed and monitored quickly and efficiently.
These five technological innovations span the history of the UK oil and gas industry — but endless ingenuity is required to meet increasingly complex demands.